Coronavirus: Safe distancing rules kick in, failure to sit or queue 1m apart from others could land you a fine or jail term

A restaurant implementing social distancing measures at Jurong Point, with patrons sitting at alternate tables, yesterday.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - From Friday (March 27), people in Singapore who intentionally sit down less than 1m away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat marked as not to be occupied, or who stand in a queue less than 1m away from another person, will be guilty of an offence.

They can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or face both penalties upon conviction under updates to the Infectious Diseases Act made by the Ministry of Health and published in the Government Gazette on Thursday (March 26) night.

The latest regulations, which came into effect at 11.59pm on Thursday, seek to give legal force to safe distancing measures announced on Tuesday by the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus pandemic in Singapore.

These limit gatherings outside of work and school to 10 persons or fewer, and ensure that physical distancing of at least one metre is maintained in non-transient settings such as at coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping malls.

Similar, if not tougher, restrictions are also in place in countries around the world as the number of Covid-19 patients cross the 500,000 mark, with over 23,000 deaths.

Singapore reported 52 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 683 to date.

Under the Infectious Diseases (Measures to Prevent Spread of Covid-19) Regulations 2020, all sporting events, exhibitions, trade fairs, and public entertainment at cinemas, theatres, amusement or computer games centres, among other venues, are prohibited between Friday (March 27) and April 30, both dates inclusive.

Also banned during this period are enrichment activities or tuition for children 18 years of age and below at an enrichment or tuition centre or sporting facility, and the provision of goods, entertainment or services at bars, karaoke lounges, nightclubs or discotheques.

Those who contravene the new rules can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or face both penalties upon conviction.

Meanwhile, organisers of events that are not prohibited must not allow more than 10 people to be present or take part, unless these are conducted in the course of business at a workplace or an educational institution.

The latest regulations seek to give legal force to safe distancing measures announced on March 24 by the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus pandemic in Singapore. PHOTO: The Straits Times

In addition, organisers of events at public places where food or drinks are served must ensure that people are at least one metre away from other individuals, and that the food and drinks are served in individual portions that minimise interaction between people.

They must allow natural ventilation of the premises during the event, take the body temperature of every person attending to determine whether they are febrile, and obtain their contact details to facilitate contact tracing measures.

And they have to turn away people with a fever, or who display specified symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, breathlessness or a runny nose.

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Owners or occupiers of places such as eateries and malls must also ensure that seats that are not fixed must be at least one metre apart at all times.

If the seats are fixed to the floor, alternate seats must be demarcated as seats not to be occupied.

They have to ensure that people who might form a queue, such as to pay for items at the cashier or use fitting rooms or toilets, stand one metre apart from others when queueing.

Those who own or occupy shopping centres, places of worship, funeral venues and 55 specified places of attraction are liable to be penalised for not complying with safe distancing measures.

These places include museums, the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, Gardens By the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Universal Studios Singapore, Wild Wild Wet, various Sentosa attractions and the Arts House and Esplanade.

The regulations do not apply to proceedings of Parliament, or the courts.

Also published were the Infectious Diseases (Covid-19 - Stay Orders) Regulations 2020, which require patients with acute respiratory symptoms who are given a five-day medical certificate by a doctor to not leave their home from the day the MC is given.

Tables and chairs are taped up to encourage social distancing at a food court in Singapore. PHOTO: Reuters

The same penalties for failure to keep a safe distance apply for those who breach this rule.

"To avoid doubt, it is a reasonable excuse if the individual leaves the place of accommodation only to seek medical attention," the rules state.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.